According to the Global Sepsis Alliance sepsis arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It may lead to shock, multi-organ failure, and death – especially if not recognised early and treated promptly. Sepsis is the final common pathway to death from most infectious diseases worldwide. It is a global health crisis affecting between 47 and 50 million people annually with at least 11 million dying every 2.8 seconds. Mortality can vary between 15% and 50% in different countries. Many surviving patients suffer from the consequences of sepsis for the rest of their lives. link. The burden of sepsis is most likely highest in low and middle-income countries. One in ten deaths associated with pregnancy and childbirth is due to maternal sepsis with over 95% of deaths due to maternal sepsis occurring in low and middle-income countries. One million newborn deaths are associated with maternal infection, such as maternal sepsis, each year.

Sepsis can be the clinical manifestation of infections acquired both in the community setting or in health care facilities. Health care-associated infections are one of, if not the most frequent type of adverse event to occur during care delivery and affect hundreds of millions of patients worldwide every year. Since these infections are often resistant to antibiotics, they can rapidly lead to deteriorating clinical conditions.

Risk Groups

Anyone can get sepsis, however, certain people are at an even higher risk. These include:

  • Children under 1
  • Adults over 60
  • People with no spleen
  • People with chronic diseases, e.g. lung, liver, heart
  • People with weakened immune systems, e.g. AIDS, Diabetes


Sepsis is a medical emergency. However, because of the characteristics of sepsis as a disease condition with multiple causative organisms and its evolving nature over time, people with sepsis can present various signs and symptoms at different times. link

The following symptoms might indicate sepsis:

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Extreme shivering or muscle pain
  • Low urine output
  • Severe breathlessness, with difficulty breathing
  • It feels like you’re going to die
  • Skin mottled or discoloured
  • Fever or low temperature
  • Increased heart rate, weak pulse, low blood pressure
  • cold extremities

If you have a confirmed or suspected infection and are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your local hospital or physician immediately. Suspecting sepsis is a first major step towards early recognition and diagnosis. (2018)


Sepsis requires immediate hospital treatment because it can worsen rapidly. You should get antibiotics within 1 hour of arriving at hospital.

If sepsis is not treated early, it can turn into septic shock and cause your organs to fail. This is life threatening. You may need other tests or treatments depending on your symptoms, including:

  • treatment in an intensive care unit
  • a machine to help you breathe (ventilator)
  • surgery to remove areas of infection

You may need to stay in hospital for several weeks.

Recovering from Sepsis

Most people make a full recovery from sepsis. But it can take time.

You might continue to have physical and emotional symptoms. These can last for months, or even years, after you had sepsis. These long-term effects are sometimes called post-sepsis syndrome, and can include:

  • feeling very tired and weak, and difficulty sleeping
  • lack of appetite
  • getting ill more often
  • changes in your mood, or anxiety or depression
  • nightmares or flashbacks
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Preventing Sepsis

Sepsis is the number one cause of preventable death worldwide. The best way to prevent sepsis is to prevent infection in the first place, which can be done by: link

  • Vaccination – ensure that children have all recommended vaccinations. link
  • Clean water
  • Hand and general good hygiene
  • Prevent hospital-acquired infections (HAIs)
  • Safe childbirth
  • Awareness
  • Keep cuts and scratches clean and covered

Extra vaccinations

If you travel to foreign countries or work in a field that may expose you to certain illnesses, you may be required to receive additional vaccines. Before you travel, check with your medical advisor to see which vaccines are recommended and which are mandatory. It takes several weeks for some vaccines to be fully effective, so allow adequate time before your departure date. Some countries will deny entry to people who have not received mandatory vaccinations, particularly if you are going to specific locations, such as the jungle or farmlands. link

Don’t be afraid to ask… ‘Could this be Sepsis?’